Recalling the house that Jack built
in South Carlow with
of the villages and townlands of Carlow, or any other County for that
matter, have always aroused interest regarding their meaning. Many a
place-name has suffered in the translation from the Irish to the
English. Generally speaking, the English version of a name differs from
the true meaning of the old Irish word.
There is also the
case where we have grown used to a name without ever thinking how it
came about. Several villages begin with the word Cluain which means
meadow and we find others beginning with the word Cill meaning wood, or
sometimes, with the different spelling meaning church.
which we find in many parts of the country is Grange, Grangeford,
Grangecon, Kill of the Grange, etc. The Grange was usually the place
associated with Monks who were always away from the Abbey.
Grange in County
Carlow is often written as Grangeford. It is thought that the name is
derived from a Rath in the vicinity. In the Name Book, it is down as
"Fardurraghagranchy Castle". Grainche - a Castle, or Forth or Rath.
Farrdurragha means "a dark man", hence "The Castle of the Dark man of
Fardurraghagranchy Castle, Grangeford. Co
Beside the road
from Grangeford to Friarstown (another connection with the Friars or
Monks) is the "Plain of Ballygorey". It was here on February 13, 1395
that a group of Irish chiefs, including King Art MacMurrough, O'Byrne,
O'Nolan, O'Moore and O'Connor met Sir Thomas Mowbray, the representative
of Richard the Second and vowed allegiance to that King. How long they
kept that vow, if they ever had any intention of keeping it, is another
In the 1800's
there lived at Grangeford a man known as James Dwyer or "Big James Dwyer
of Grange", and he was sometimes referred to as "Dwyer the Wrestler",
and was the acknowledged champion wrestler of Ireland. James was six
feet three inches tall and weighed in at just over 16 stone. He was
often challenged for his title and took on all comers. They always
returned 'sadder but wiser men'.
wrestling was always above suspicion, he was an out-and-out sports-man,
and could not tolerate foul play in anybody. This was not always the
case with his opponents. Sometimes James came up against a wrestler who
thought he knew a few tricks that James did not.
This they soon
found out was a big mistake and the growled warning "two can play that
game" usually had the desired effect and the match ended cleanly.
However, on one
occasion when he was taking part in a big match in the Phoenix Park in
Dublin, his opponent, a Dublin wrestler, tried to play a foul game. He
got the usual warning but replied that he would break James in pieces.
He tried, but he didn't and when the match was over so was his wrestling
career for he never entered the ring again.
in Dwyer's blood, for his father, known as "John Dwyer the Wrestler"
was, it was said, in his day more powerful than his famous son. Both
father and son lived to be very old men. James died in 1881. They are
buried at the Rath, Grangeford.
sport were not the only strong points in the life of James Dwyer, he was
also a quick thinker and could hold his own with some of the so-called
smart men. The following story is worth relating concerning his ability
to get things done.
dispute over land
early 1800's disputes over land were common in Ireland. Law cases were
the order of the day, and sometimes the result of the case was a
foregone conclusion. It was in such a case that a strange episode in the
life of James Dwyer occurred.
family claimed ownership of a parcel of land at Grangeford. A law suit
sprung up about the ownership, and the case was tried at the Carlow
Quarter Sessions. All day the case for and against the Dwyer family
swung one way and then the other.
evening, James was informed by his solicitor that he would win the case
if a dwelling house had existed on the farm, but as there was no house
on the land the case would go against him. He also informed James that
there was no use saying there was a house in existence as the Judge
intended driving out the next morning to the farm to see for himself
before giving his decision. In the circumstances, the solicitor
suggested that they should save expense by withdrawing before the court
"You don't know the Grange people" and headed for home at once. He
arrived in Grange about seven o'clock on a winter's evening and quickly
set about collecting the neighbours for miles around. He collected
people of all occupations - carpenters, masons, thatches, farmers,
labourers, colleens holding turpentine torches, horses, etc. There was
very little talk, all present knew what was required, work was started
The sound of
the saw, the ring of the hammer, and the scraping of the shovel along
with murmers of encouragement went on all through the winter night and a
little after seven o'clock the following morning the Dwyer family and
friends were having a well earned meal in the house.
night the "Wrestler" himself was kept busy distributing bottles of "Cumfort"
to the workers.
broke the clearing up took place and with the help of a little covering
up the house looked as if it had been there for years. The Judge arrived
in due course
and found the
house perfect, to the utter amazement of the other contending party. Now
it was back to Carlow where the Judge delivered his verdict, stating
that the land was now the property of James Dwyer.
was known from that day on as "The House that Jack Built". James'
father, John Dwyer, who was then living, was the real proprietor. James
married a Miss Hanlon, Baunogh, and their descendants resided in the
place for many years. The "House that Jack Built" was added to
considerably in later times. A portion of that famous old house was to
be seen for many years.
deduce their descent from Cormac Cas, second son of Oliol Ollumand his
wife, Sabh, daughter of Con of the Hundred Battles. Irish historians set
down Cormac Cas as remarkable for strength of body, dexterity, and
courage. Perhaps it was from him that James got his strength, his love
of sport and his quickness of thought.
Source: Times Past in South Carlow with
Willie White published in The Nationalist Oct 1998
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